Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone.: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299
Gesellschaft für Primatologie
How sociality, cooperation and fitness are linked together in social mammals.
Tim Clutton-Brock's research explores the evolutionary causes and ecological consequences of animal societies. His long-term field studies of red deer, Soay sheep and meerkats provide unusual opportunities to examine the reproductive strategies of individuals and their effects on breeding success and survival.
Mothers, offspring, siblings, friends: Kinship and fitness in social mammals
Behavior is the primary means by which animals flexibly adapt to and exploit their environments, and social behavior is a crucial means of adapting for social animals. Animals may use unrelated conspecifics as key resources, but kin relationships occupy a special place in the fabric of most societies: kinship often predicts patterns of social interaction, and relationships with kin have major consequences for life outcomes. Drawing primarily on data from the long-term Amboseli Baboon Research Project, I will discuss the significance of kin relationships for developmental plasticity, for life history pacing, for mitigating or exacerbating the consequences of cumulative and chronic stress, and for survival.
How cognition influences fitness in primates
Baboons are one of the most prominent models for understanding primate social evolution. I will present new insights from our study of wild Guinea baboons in Senegal. We combine behavioral observations and social network analyses with genetic and endocrinological studies, as well as acoustic analyses and field experiments. Guinea baboons exhibit a multi-level system that superficially resembles that of hamadryas baboons. However, females appear to enjoy a higher independence from males, while specific sets of males maintain strong bonds among each other. This is in line with population genetic evidence for male philopatry and female dispersal. From a comparative perspective, our results contribute to a better understanding of the link between social system, communication patterns and social knowledge.
Hormones, social behaviour and reproductive suppression
Reproductive performance is the currency of evolution. The puzzling questions in evolutionary biology are not why an organism does reproduce, but rather why an organism does not reproduce. It is difficult to understand why a female might forestall reproduction when one of the biggest limitations for female mammalian reproduction is time. The answer is quite simple: Reproductive suppression can be an adaptive strategy. In this talk, I will review reproductive suppression across primates with a focus on my own research in wild geladas. Specifically, I will focus on reproductive suppression which results from social cues, rather than energetic ones.
Ape conservation across Africa
Evolutionary and ecological processes often leave distinct spatial signatures in populations, evident as gradients in density, socio-demographic and genetic structure or the distribution of behavioural and cultural traits. In our research we make extensive use of these spatial signatures to answer a broad spectrum of questions on African and Asian great apes. Applied research focuses on historic, current and future ape population status and evidence-based approaches that provide scientific support for successful ape conservation; fundamental research questions concentrate on large scale spatial variation and diversity in isotope ecology, socio-demographic structure and the emergence of cultural traits.